Money worries keep Gen Y from getting wheels

'Gen Y' not buying cars

It's true that the economy is improving and more people have jobs, but Generation Y members are still worried about the affordability of buying or leasing a car, according to a new study from Deloitte.

Among Gen Y respondents—whom the study defines as people born between 1977 and 1994—61 percent plan to buy or lease a car within the next three years and 23 percent within the next year; 8 percent have no plans to buy or lease a vehicle.

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Among the respondents who don't own or lease now, 80 percent said they cannot afford to buy a new car, with 75 percent expressing concerns about operational and maintenance costs.

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"Affordability is a huge issue for Gen Y," said Joe Vitale, global automotive sector leader at Deloitte. "Many in Gen Y have had a tough time financially, and that impacts their decisions."

The percentage of new vehicles going to 18- to 34-year-olds fell in 2013, despite automakers and auto dealers' offering leases with payments as low as $200 a month, according to

Rising prices area likely factor. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price paid for a new vehicle was $32,086.00 last year—almost $400 more than in 2012.

Higher costs have become a challenge not just for Gen Y consumers but for automakers. Attracting younger buyers becomes more difficult as the price tag for a new vehicle edges higher.

The group is also affected by their desire to be connected at all times, Vitale said, adding that "40 percent of Gen Y prefers taking public transportation so they can stay connected with their friends."

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The indifference doesn't surprise Craig Giffi, leader of Deloitte's U.S. auto industry practice, who said that Gen Y "is three times as likely as other generations to step away from buying or leasing a car."

A particularly interesting survey result involves Gen Y's attitudes about fuel-efficient, green cars.

Fifty-three percent think they will be driving an alternative engine vehicle five years from now, with gas-electric hybrids being the most preferred option. Further, 61 percent of those surveyed support government programs that reward consumers for choosing alternative or high-efficiency engines.

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"They are more likely than other generations to support government subsidies for alternative power cars," Giffi said.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

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